Sunday, July 5, 2009

This week’s comics rocked my socks off

While the Tearoom of Despair prefers to bask in the warm nostalgic glow of old comics that smell like the ten-year-old socks I found in a backpack last week, this was a particularly fine week for new comics. And as the world is in desperate need of one more poorly thought out capsule review of Batman and Robin, it’s time to cast aside the past and embrace the shine of the new.

I also finally got around to reading that Jeff Smith Captain Marvel book and the Ennis/Fabry Thor: Vikings this weekend, but that’s a post for another time…

* * *

Batman and Robin #2

Morrison is as good as ever, discarding the new Batman ‘s temporary regrets about taking on the job with a minimum of bullshit, and a nice theatrical metaphor from dear old faithful Alfred, but this issue is all about the Quitley.

For a medium that relies so heavily on action and handsome people punching ugly people in the face, it’s surprisingly hard to find some decent action choreography. There are always spectacular talents who can whip out a good chase scene or punch-up, but Quitely is the current king of action comics.

The page four splash in Batman and Robin #2, showing the dynamic duo descend through the innards of a police station stairwell, is nothing short of gorgeous. Quitely may take a while to deliver the pages, but the remarkable thing about the time he puts into his pages is how effortless it all looks. The relaxed flow of the grappling line. Robin’s legs splayed out behind him, his left arm balancing him out. It’s graceful in a way few comics even try to achieve.

And then a couple of pages later, it’s Batman and Robin versus a gang of homicidal freaks, which has been seen so often, that last sentence alone managed to bore the piss out me. But again, in Quitely’s hands, it all comes alive.

The movement of the characters, the rhythm of the panel sizes, the ability to capture a single moment in time that is just unusual enough to stand out. And sharp enough to note the impact of fists on walls, and there is some kind of poetry in the way Batman leaps into the scene and just starts laying into motherfuckers.

The spread across pages eight and nine is simply spectacular. It’s alive and moving and the bit where Dick shows he knows exactly what to do with the cape in panel four, and then goes in feet first two panels later.

There are pages and pages of this shit to drink in.

The impending arrival of Phillip Tan as regular artist for several issues looms over these comics, and poor Phil has an immensely high standard to live up to, one he has rarely demonstrated in the past. At least it could inspire Tan to be a bit better. Tony Daniels was trying his hardest during the last Morrison Batman run and was occasionally really effective.

Unfortunately, he was still rubbish most of the time.

* * *

The Boys #32

Back in the early 70s, writers like John Wagner, Pat Mills and Alan Grant learned how to write by working on weekly girl’s comics in the UK. Like 2000ad, only instead of guns and explosions and eight-year-old kids getting eaten by dinosaurs, it was secret diaries and safe ghost stories and adventures in the walls of the boarding schools.

This may not have been a direct cause of the respect for women displayed in the work of these men, but it can’t have hurt.

Garth Ennis grew up on these writers, grew his own opinions and has made his own feelings on the opposite sex quite clear. Women are not to be harmed, and when they are, there is hell to pay.

One of the central themes of Preacher was that you don’t prey on the weak, because there is always going o be some righteous cocksucker who will punish you for it. Poor Cassidy hit some women and hurt them bad, and he paid for his crimes. The worst thing was, he lost the respect of a good man and had to make a sacrifice to win it back.

(The fact that Cassidy gets a happy ending remains my single favourite thing about that whole damn comic.)

Ennis does rely on the superwoman a bit too much, but in general, he is one of the good ones when it comes to writing women. The first two stories in his Battlefields comics feature women who do some extraordinarily horrible things, but there is no judgement here. That’s too easy.

And now in The Boys, he points out the logic that sees women in comics go all dark and sexed up after a sexual assault is FUCKING RETARDED and then later has one character go right over the line.

The Crimson Countess deserves what she gets, because she is a horrible person who is going to kill a little dog, but it’s still a line that Billy Butcher crosses in dishing out her punishment, one that shows just how damned Billy is. It’s a reminder how horrible the title characters need to be to take down some evil people doing evil things, and the effect it has on the characters is harsh.

The Boys has gained a slow momentum that is building to some kind of horrific climax. Each story arc looked superficially like the rest, but things have got slightly worse each time, and now it’s all starting to pay off.

DC were such fucking knobs.

* * *

Fantastic Four #568

For story featuring a menace that threatens to destroy all of existence, the final run of Millar and Hitch’s Fantastic Four is oddly anti-climactic.

It’s all a bit of a shrug and a yawn. The creators have all had personal issues to deal with, and fair play to that. My sense of entitlement doesn’t extend that far, but handing off the last issues in favour of something that will get more attention indicates a certain sign of throwing up of hands. A completely muffed cliffhanger that doesn’t give enough information to work and a failure to sell the stakes sinks it.

There is also some of that stuff that came up in The Boys, with Aunt Petunia thrown into the grinder, although there is still the chance that a little time and space surgery won’t fix that up.

It’s still a cracking read, Millar at his worst is always a little bit entertaining, and Reed Richards’ confidence that there is always a better way never gets old with me.

* * *

Greek Street #1

Yeah, I’ll give that a go.

It’s all a bit confusing to start off with, but it makes me think and tempts me back into the old classics. Milligan rarely disappoints outside superheroes and the Gianfelice art is nice and scratchy.

* * *

Jack of Fables #35
The Literals #3

The last two parts of The Great Fables crossover and I still dig the Fables. Reading the main one in books, and Jack of Fables is my big guilty treat each month.

The mental looseness of Jack of Fables invades the whole crossover and while the ending is pretty obvious, everybody in the story knows it is and is quite happy to move on and not worry about it.

The two-page little blue bull bit was really fucking good, and Bigby the Evil Little Girl ripping heads and chewing hearts was marvelous.

The freedom that the Fables series have by wrapping up the whole Empire thing is the best idea Bill Willingham ever had. It could literally go anywhere and is all the better for it.

No comments: